I hate it when I can't truly remember something from the past. And I also hate that anyone who might remember is gone now. As you may or may not know, I have been working on a couple different memoirs for some time now. One is about my childhood, growing up in a small township to the northwest of Detroit. My latest struggle is trying to remember a detail about the fence that enclosed our front yard in the little house I grew up in. I remember it being there when I was small, and then for some reason, the front portion was taken down and the portion along the driveway left up. Then some years later, that fence, too, was taken down. But the posts were left up for many years after, I think until I left home in the 70s.
But I cannot remember why! Or who did it! I do remember thinking it was ugly. We were the only house on the street who had a fenced in front yard. We were one of the few houses on Centralia were set to the back of the lot. (The entire subdivision was like this, all with Indian tribe names). They were small lots and I suppose this was to give the house a sense of privacy? I don't know that, either. The house was built in the 1920s. There were four other houses on the street of the same era. As the lots on the street were built upon in later years, they were all set to toward the front, giving those houses a nice backyard. Our backyard was tiny and not very inviting.
I remember thinking that fence kept us from being part of the neighborhood. Or perhaps it made us different. Different in those days was not a good thing. Looking back, it was clear the neighborhood itself was a hodge-podge of building styles, ranging from our little Dutch revival to two story brick-fronts to salt-shaker and then mid-century modern. All were small, yet distinct unto themselves. As I said, ours was built in the 20s. The last house built on the street came in the late 70s. Imagine.
Anyway, that's a story for the memoir for sure. Many stories in those little houses, our family's just one of them. But what I'm thinking about here is just how difficult it is to recall some details...details that will probably be lost forever. The people who created them are gone. No one to check with. I have re-connected with several people who spent some or all of their growing up years on Centralia. I doubt they remember why the fence came down, either. I bet some of them remember the birthday parties and other fun times we had in that yard, but even those memories are faded now.
Right now I am hating that it happens that way. Maybe there is a good reason it does. Too painful? Too sad? Perhaps a real mystery of a criminal nature? Probably now, but in the meantime, I suggest if there is memory that just doesn't come clearly to you, and you still have others who were there at the time, ask. Write it down if you must. You probably will wonder some day...just as I am now, about that dang fence.